Behind the scenes at Techstars – Week 2 – Mentor Meetings

Following on from Week 1 Orientation, this is where we start to introduce the companies to our mentor network. This year we have scheduled 800+ face-to-face mentor meetings over three weeks. Mentoring is so critical to Techstars that our whole accelerator model is ‘mentor-driven’.  (I will write more about our Mentor process in a future post)

Monday – Mentor Meetings, CEO Meeting

  • We had our first day of Mentor Meetings today from 9 to 12.30
  • Everyone turned up on time and we had a great first day. A huge testament to Sanah, Laura and all the associates and our companies for ensuring the 100 meetings (10 mentors x 10 companies) that morning all went like clockwork. The feedback from our companies and mentors was great and several follow up meetings and introductions ensued. Considering how Techstars whole accelerator model is ‘mentor-driven’ it was a great start to our eight planned days of mentor meetings.
  • We had our first mentor de-briefing from 12.30 to 13:15. We were delighted with the feedback and action items from our mentors. On average each mentor wanted to mentor/work further with 2.3 companies.
  • We had our first CEO meeting. Jenny and Mathias (our EIR;s) facilitated this meeting with our CEO’s. I did not attend as the goal of this meeting is for our CEO’s to bond and create their own shared and trusted forum for helping each other independent of their MD. Most MD’s say that the CEO meetings are one of the most powerful parts of the 13 week accelerator. The long term goal is that the CEO’s will keep this format going post-program. The format of the meeting gives each CEO 5 minutes to get collective feedback on the one big issue they are currently dealing with. Jenny and Mathias started the first meeting by getting buy in and establishing shared ‘ground rules’ for their CEO meetings. We hope to have this meeting every week.
  • 1 Deep Dive
  • EXPERIMENT: On days where we have mentor office hours the next day we now offer a 15 minute Mentor Preview at 5.30PM each day where we go through the mentors coming in tomorrow for any additional insights from our knowledge of the mentors. i.e. For those of you in E-Commerce, Joan has deep E-Commerce experience and was a lead mentor to 2 of our companies last year etc..  We also get quick feedback from the companies on the mentoring process and anything we can do to improve.

Tuesday – Mentor Meetings, ‘4 Steps of the Epiphany’ Workshop

  • Mentor Meetings Day #2 from 9-12:30
  • WORKSHOP: The always brilliant Jens Lapinski delivered a great workshop entitled ‘Ready to Scale? or Killing yourself with premature scaling’. As a former Techstars MD with 4 classes under his belt and now a full time angel investor, Jens has huge experience and insights into early stage companies. His workshop introduced Steve Blanks famous ‘4 Steps to the Epiphany’ and how important it is for each of our companies to recognise at what stage of the ‘epiphany’ they are at in order to avoid ‘premature scaling’. Steve Blank summarises that a startup is an organisation that is in search of a scalable and repeatable business model, and in Jen’s opinion the first 3 stages (which he refers to as 1.Idea, 2. Product and 3. Sales and Marketing) are all focussed on ‘Search’. He believes Step 4, which he calls ‘Company Building’, is where the shift to execution and scaling should begin. In Jen’s experience startups who end up skipping a step at this stage end up in trouble as they start to scale too soon and burn through their cash when in fact they should be remaining lean and focussed on searching for ‘Product Market’ fit along with understanding their value prop, messaging, unit economics, and positioning first. Thanks Jens.
  • 2 more Deep Dives

Wednesday –  Experimentation Workshop & First Founder Story

  • No mentor meetings today
  • WORKSHOP: “Why and How to run growth experiments” with Peter O’Malley. Peter was our EIR last year and is the CEO and Founder of Prior to that he conceived, ran and scaled growth experiments at some of Europes fastest growing startups (TravelPerk, Pointy and Websummit). I don’t know anyone with more consistent results than Peter and that is why I was delighted that he could share his approach to growth experiments with the class. He showed several examples of experiments he ran (several of which failed) and explained how experimentation was the ‘HOW’ to the search part of the startup journey as covered by Jens workshop the previous day. The impact was immediate as nearly every team committed to setting up and running their own growth experiments this week. Last year this was a game changing moment for several of our companies, and I’m confident that the companies who adopt an experiment led mindset on this class will have similar breakthroughs in understanding their go-to-market, messaging, positioning and value proposition. Thanks Peter.
  • 4 more deep dives
  • Our mentor briefing
  • FOUNDER STORY with Techstars MD and Seismic Co-Founder Johann Romefort. Johann previously was CTO and co-founder at Seismic in San Fran where he raised $16M. To hear his story, advice, insights and journey you should apply to his upcoming Techstars program in Munich :) Tldr; Like every great founder story – it was a rollercoaster of a story filled with actionable lessons and advice for our Founders as they grow and scale their companies. Thanks Johann and welcome again to Techstars.
  • 6pm Fashion moment – The team recoiled as I transformed Cinderella-style to a fancy frock for a fun filled dinner and networking event at the Irish Ambassadors Residence in Berlin. Thanks Ireland :)

Thursday – Mentoring and Cohort Dinner

  • Mentor Meetings Day #3 from 9-12:30
  • WORKSHOP: SAP Cloud Platform overview with Marc Geall. Marc is responsible for Partner and Ecosystem adoption of SAP’s PaaS offering, HANACloud Platform so was able to give the companies a masterclass on navigating and maximising their relationship with SAP. As a mentor and senior executive the companies were able to better understand SAP’s partnership process and how to maximise their chances of exciting and engaging SAP’s account executives and 380,000 customers. Thanks Marc
  • 1 Deep Dive
  • Paul Graham visited…. Not the famous founder of Y-Combinator (although we would love to have you Paul) but the Paul Graham who leads MasterCard Labs Europe :)
  • We had our second Class Dinner and All Hands meeting. This week we focussed on each company presenting their ‘Big Rocks’ (Big goals for the next week). I was delighted to see how ambitious the companies were and several were also focussed on having growth experiments setup for next week. One of the companies volunteered to buy us all dinner and a huge thank you to Recotap for the Indian Feast. Delicious :)

Friday – KPI Workshop and Customer Visits

  • 2 Deep dives
  • WORKSHOP: How to setup your KPIs with Jenny Herald. After understanding what stage everyone was with Jens workshop, and learning how to experiment with Peter’s workshop, Jenny’s workshop was the icing on the ‘Workshop Trilogy Cake’ :) Jenny gave a masterclass on how to understand, discover and identify the 2-3 KPI’s that the teams should prioritise over the course of the program and beyond. Jenny’s workshop resulted in homework and further 1:1’s with Jenny over the next week to help them lock in their first KPIs. Thanks again Jenny
  • SAP Customer Visits. I cannot emphasis how valuable and generous SAP are with consistently introducing the companies to SAP customers. In this case 3 of our companies got to meet and present to SAP Austria customers. SAP have already scheduled 20+ customer visits.
  • We had various other internal meetings – demo day planning and associate/staff meetings were mainly focussed on planning and scheduling for the weeks ahead.

Next week – We should have 300+ more mentor meetings and more emphasis on KPI’s and the results of our first experiments. You can follow my update from Week 3 here.

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